Building a Digital Defense By Recognizing Signs of Trouble

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense by recognizing signs of trouble. 

Indicators, or symptoms, that your computer or devices have been hacked can vary from nothing identifiable to the most obvious, like getting a ransomware message or having your financial accounts drained. 

Some of the more blatant indicators include:

  • Your password not working. While this may be a temporary issue with an internet connection or a requested website having technical issues, it could be an instance in which an attacker has hijacked your account and changed the password. 

  • People receive emails or social media invites from you that you did not send. 

  • You get a large number of pop-up ads. 

  • You get fake antivirus messages.

  • You have unexplained online activity.

  • You have new browser toolbars, applications, or software which you do not recognize or didn’t install. 

There are also indicators related to how your computer or device is behaving. For example: your device suddenly slows down, you see a marked increase in data usage, your device randomly restarts, or you are experiencing redirected Internet searches. 

Attackers will also use subtle ways to avoid detection. You may notice that your security or anti-virus software has somehow been turned off. The security settings on your device may have been changed, your logging or registry editor may have been disabled, or system settings may have been altered or disabled. 

Trying to identify if you have been hacked, and what may have been compromised, is a difficult task. Even large corporations with significant financial resources dedicated to cybersecurity fall victim. We hear or read about these incidents all of the time.

Organizations shouldn’t hesitate to hire professional cybersecurity experts, just as you would hire professional video services for an ad campaign or catering services for a fundraising event. Make sure you do your own research to identify a reputable firm. 

Strengthening your systems against attacks and making yourself less of a target for would-be cyber attackers is absolutely critical.  

As always, if you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at or call your local FBI office.


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